adulting 101 example: young woman ironing in her apartment

Grow up! The Top Adulting 101 Lessons and How To Master Them

All right class, welcome to Adulting 101! In this post, you’ll learn all of those important life lessons that you didn’t pick up in school.

Because let’s face it, high school might be good at teaching us algebra and essay writing, but for most of us, formal education falls short in teaching us the vital skills we need to take on the world as an official adult. 

You might remember saying, “I don’t want to grow up!” when you were little, but now that you’re leaving home for the first time, or moving out of the dorm, being an adult takes on a whole new meaning.

Now, you’re on your own, living in your first apartment or heading off to college, and suddenly new responsibilities big and small are breathing down your neck.

This article breaks down some of the most important lessons on “how to adult,” from the simple yet essential (like cleaning your house or cooking a nutritious meal) to the challenging yet rewarding (making new friends or balancing your budget). There are plenty of resources along the way to make this transition into being a grown-up a little less challenging.


Adulting 101: What is it and why does it matter?

adulting 101 quote:

Before we get to the resources, let’s pause a moment and talk about the word “adulting.” Believe it or not, this word is actually in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster gives us a pretty solid definition of adulting: 

To attend to the ordinary tasks required of responsible adults. 

So let’s be clear—when we talk about “adulting” or growing up, we aren’t talking about losing your sparkle. Growing up doesn’t have to mean putting on a formal outfit, going to work in some dreary office, and talking about stocks and golf on the weekends. (Though if those are your passions, more power to you!)

Instead, when we talk about “Adulting 101”, we’re talking about the specific skills that most adults master by their 30s or 40s. Some people learn these skills from adults in their life, but there’s a serious learning curve that happens for most people after they graduate from high school and move on. 

It might feel a little uncomfortable admitting that you need help figuring out some tasks that on their surface seem simple. But the fact that you’re looking to learn and improve is a sign of self-reflection and growth, and that’s something to be proud of; not to mention, looking to improve is a sign that you are indeed growing up, so you’re already on the right track! 

By the way, if you’re feeling stressed about this stage in your life, check out our article on getting through a quarter-life crisis

For now, let’s dive into some of the most important Adulting 101 lessons out there. 


Housing and living on your own

One of the most intimidating things about growing up is living on your own. Finding apartments, paying bills, keeping your space tidy, living with roommates instead of family—all of these things can be a challenge!  

There’s a lot to get your head around when it comes to moving and making a space your own. Here are a few resources that can make it easier:


Finding your first apartment

Moving into your first apartment is one of those things that’s just better if you plan ahead. Viewing apartments can be overwhelming—there’s so much to think about, and you usually have a pretty limited amount of time to look everything over. So check out this guide from Lauren’s Life, where she talks about what to look for when you’re viewing your first apartment:  


And when it’s time to move, you can view this video (which comes with a handy checklist) to make sure you pack and purchase everything you’ll need: 


Finding the right roommates

Choosing who you live with is just as important as choosing where you live. This person (or these people) will be a big part of your life, so it’s important you find someone whose lifestyle and habits match your own. This doesn’t always mean you want to choose your best friend—more than one solid friendship has ended because someone neglects the dishes in the sink. 

This video gives a good rundown of what to think about and what to ask when trying to find the right roommate. 


Living on your own for the first time

pie chart showing the benefits of living alone, such as decorating freedoms, closet space, podcasts at ful volume, cooking weird-smelling food, tv control, getting creative to reach ceiling lightbulb Living with roommates can be fun if you find the right people, but there’s something to be said for living on your own as well. You can make the apartment truly your space, and you don’t have to worry about those little dramas that often crop up when two or more people are living together. 

One of our most popular blogs is all about this subject: The ultimate guide to living alone and loving it

Our article runs through the pros and cons of living by yourself, and also gives you advice on what to think about before you make the move. 


Meal planning and cooking

Eating well can be challenging when you’re living on your own. It’s all too easy to rely on takeout food, or spend several nights a week eating ramen and frozen pizza. Learning how to stock your pantry and prepare a few simple meals can make life much healthier (and cheaper). 

The YouTube channel Binging with Babish features a professional chef recreating meals from TV and movies. That’s fun on its own, but for beginner chefs, the Basics with Babish Live Cook-A-Longs are where it’s at. These videos show you the best methods to master kitchen basics, from homemade pizza to pasta carbonara. 


Your first meal in your first new apartment should be pizza or Chinese food, served on paper plates while sitting on the floor. That’s just tradition. But after that, you’ll want to make an inaugural trip to your grocery store and stock up on the basics anyone should have in their pantry and fridge. 

Kelli Foster of has a great article that you can use as a shopping list when it comes time to make that trip. 


Keeping your house clean and tidy

You don’t have to spend too long living on your own before you realize just how quickly your living space can become messy and cluttered. If you start a regular cleaning routine, tackling little tasks throughout the week, it’s much easier to keep your new home looking and feeling good. 

Pinterest is a great option for finding cleaning schedules—there are hundreds to choose from, so look for one that works best with your schedule, or use some of these to adapt your own.  

daily cleaning schedule from Pinterest
Daily cleaning schedule
31 day cleaning routine
31 day cleaning checklist

There are also some cleaning gurus on TikTok who give bite-sized tips for making your home look fabulous. User @melissadilkespateras makes excellent minute-long videos explaining things like how to perfectly fold hand towels or paint a room without making a mess: 


No mess pouring @tinamadlibs #laundrytok

♬ Paint – Trees and Lucy


Doing laundry and caring for your clothes

One of the joys of growing up is defining your own style. Buying or thrifting clothes can be a fun part of that, but maintaining those clothes so they last a long time isn’t so simple. (Admit it, you have a pile of dirty clothes on your bed right now.) 

This video from YouTuber Justine Leconte is a short and sweet explanation of how to care for your clothes. She gives advice not only on how to do laundry the right way, but also how to store your clothes so they have a long lifespan. 


Owning and maintaining a vehicle

Owning your own car can certainly give you a sense of personal freedom—it may even be a necessity depending on where you live. Losing a car you depend on because it needs to go to the shop can be a real hassle, so it’s a good idea to learn the basics of car maintenance to keep things running smoothly—literally.

I Drive Safely put together an excellent checklist for keeping up on basic car maintenance, so that’s a great place to start. And when it’s time to actually carry out this maintenance, check out this awesome YouTube series called Saturday Mechanic, which has short how-to videos that will definitely come in handy when it’s time to give your car a health check. 


Adulting 101 for your professional life

There’s nothing quite like entering the workforce after you’ve been living at home or in a dorm for years. You’re suddenly faced with an entire new world of office politics, new responsibilities, and the rollercoaster ride of a paycheck cycle. 

Dealing with these issues isn’t something they teach in most schools, and it’s pretty hard stuff to learn on the fly. Whether you need help finding the job that’s right for you, or dealing with a difficult situation at work, here’s the good news: There are tons of resources on the blog you’re reading right now to help. 


Mapping out your career plan

One of the most intimidating parts of living on your own is figuring out exactly what you want to do for a career. The good news is, you don’t have to decide on your lifetime career right now—you have plenty of time to figure out what you want, and you can always change gears later in life. 

For now, you may want to consider some of these alternatives to college—there are lots of other options that can help you earn a good living and live a fulfilling life.

If you plan to work and go to school at the same time, then read our guide on balancing work and school. It’s not easy, but with some good time-management skills, it can be done! 

Need more advice? You’re in luck. We have LOTS of other resources right here:



Managing your money

Do you have finance-phobia? Does the idea of budgeting and paying taxes make your eyes glaze over? You’re not alone. Managing money the right way can be hard when you’re young, especially if you’re living on a tighter budget. 

Figuring out how to manage your money and make the most of your income, however, will definitely pay off (quite literally). So to get you started, here are some of our favorite resources that explain those complex money topics in a way anyone can understand.


Budgeting your money

Having a budget means you won’t be surprised to look at your bank accounts and see you only have $2.34 left until your next paycheck. A simple, solid budget will help you know how much money you have coming in, and what you are likely to spend. 

The Vector Impact has two great guides to get you started: 

When you’re done looking at those, you may want to consider downloading a budget app like Mint or Wally, which connect directly to your bank accounts to help you track transactions. 


Getting out of debt

Worried about paying off student debt? You’re not alone—around 45 million people in the U.S. are still paying off student debt. Add to that things like credit card debt and car loans, and you start to see why learning how to manage debt early can make a big difference. 

Here’s a great guide to help you with this: Paying off student loans: How to get it done 

If you want some more no-nonsense tips about how to pay off your debt faster, check out this video from YouTuber Graham Stephan: 


Saving and investing for your future

It may seem like you’re eons away from buying a house or retiring from the workforce, but your future self will thank you if you start investing your money now.  

You need to get good at saving money
College saving guide
11 ways to make passive income

We’re lucky to live in a world where investing money is actually pretty easy, even if you aren’t familiar with stock markets or bonds. A great resource to start with is a site like Betterment, where you can set up financial goals and invest small amounts of money to reach them. 

You can also check out this article on Investing 101, written specifically for young adults. To learn more about the basics of investing while in your twenties, take a look at this video from YouTuber Elena Taber: 


How to pay taxes the right way

There’s nothing fun or sexy about paying taxes. Unfortunately, it’s necessary—filing taxes on time every year will save you some headaches. If you’ve never done your own taxes before, here’s a useful video about how to file taxes for your first time: 


The IRS website isn’t exactly the most user-friendly place on the internet, but it’s usually the best place to go for accurate information about filing taxes. And the IRS website for students has some handy information for filing while in college.


Managing relationships and your personal life

When you leave the house and start living on your own for the first time, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of lifestyle changes. You’ll have plenty of time to explore yourself and new experiences, including joyful new discoveries and challenges you haven’t faced yet. 

On top of that, your social circle is likely to change. Through work and/or school, you’ll meet new people, start new romantic relationships, have new bosses and classmates… it can be quite overwhelming! 

Fortunately, we once again have lots of resources that can help with all this tricky stuff. Try some of these on for size…


Exploring yourself as an adult

A core part of learning how to adult is giving yourself the time and brainspace to explore yourself. What kind of adult will you be? What passions will you pursue (in and out of work)? And perhaps most importantly—will you learn to treat yourself with kindness, so you can live life to its fullest potential? 

These are big questions, and there’s not enough room to discuss them here. But you can keep reading:


Navigating new and old relationships

We’ve already mentioned that you can expect lots of new relationships as you enter young adulthood. But your old relationships—with friends from high school and your younger years, and your family as well—are also likely to change. 

When it comes to new relationships, it pays to invest time and effort into making these bonds as strong as possible. There’s a good chance that the friends you make in your 20s will be the friends you carry into adulthood. Here are some articles that might help:

Relationships with people you already know—especially your parents—are bound to change as you come into your own. So to help you get through some of the trickier family-relationship shifts coming your way, check out these articles:


Caring for your body and mind

We only get one body, so it’s important to take care of it. When we’re kids, our guardians and teachers help us eat well and exercise often. But now that you’re a full-blown adult, it’s up to you to make sure you’re taking good care of your brain and body.

When it comes to physical health, remember that the goal should ultimately be to make yourself feel healthy and capable. It doesn’t mean hitting a specific number on a scale or having clearly defined muscles. It means making sure that when you go to the doctor, you get a clean bill of health, and that you feel your best as often as possible. 

We’ve already covered some cooking tips in this article, but beyond knowing how to make a delicious meal, you also need to understand how to get the right amount of all the essential nutrients your body needs. 

This video from the Clean & Delicious YouTube channel has a lot of valuable information, including how to read food labels well and what healthy items to have on hand:


When it comes to mental health, seeking professional counseling can help you better understand yourself, deal with challenging situations, improve your relationships, and just be happier in general. 

If you’re a student, your school likely has a mental health center that can help you meet with a counselor at a low cost (or no cost at all). Otherwise, you can look through your health care provider, a service like Psychology Today, or online platforms like BetterHelp.

You can also start a mindfulness practice. This involves taking time (every day, or every few days) to reflect, center yourself, and bring more awareness to your surroundings. It may sound simple, but this can help you learn more about yourself and manage just about everything else on this list. Here are some resources to help you get started:


So, are you ready to grow up?

By now, we’ve covered off a lot of the most important Adulting 101 lessons, and hopefully you’re feeling more equipped to handle some of the new responsibilities that come with growing up. 

The Vector Impact frequently posts articles aimed at helping people navigate their young adulthood, so be sure to check back for more.

Remember: Even though you’re growing up and taking on more responsibilities, you can still let your inner child shine. Stay playful, keep a cool head, and give yourself a pat on the back for getting things done.